ferocious beauty: genome in green chicago museum

Submitted by Susan Miller on Sat, 09/30/2006 - 14:49.

Photo by Kevin Kennefick.

On Thursday evening I attended a performance of Ferocious Beauty: Genome by Liz Lerman, Founding Artistic Director of The Dance Exchange in Washington, DC.

The work was wonderful and spawned intelligent discussion among members of the audience after the show. In attendance were not only dance lovers, but also scientists and social activists who are concerned about the socio-political concerns related to genetics. This is not an unusual audience for The Dance Exchange which has long pushed dance to its outer limits, which is (as far as I am concerned) where it needs to be more and more often.

Liz has tackled nuclear waste, emigration and other important issues with an intergenerational company since 1976. I have marveled at her intelligent and questioning mind and the beauty and inquisitiveness of the works she has made. She challenges the dance world in every way. I was thrilled to see that she has not picked up the gauntlet and gone home, but remains standing by it having thrown it down so long ago for her colleagues in the field of dance. The sad news is that more have not responded; there are some who recognize that dance must come out of the studio, get to the folks and take up the tough issues to improve its relevance in today’s culture.

The Dance Exchange is a company worth traveling to see. They have not performed her in Northeast Ohio for years, though Liz has been here to speak and to create work on local companies.

Here’s an interview with Liz talking about Ferocious Beauty with Doug Fox of the Great Dance Weblog.

Here’s the description of the work: “What we eat, how we heal, age, and procreate...Today's scientific culture is deeply affecting our daily lives and those of generations to come -- perhaps more quickly than one would think. Ferocious Beauty: Genome is inspired by the rapidly expanding promise and threat of the new biological age. Developed over the past five years, partly through creative residencies at the MCA, this richly layered multidisciplinary performance is saturated with exquisite dancing, imaginative storytelling, and provocative video interviews with scientists and ethicists from across the country. Lerman's work summons questions about the potential of genetic engineering to alter the human condition, and -- quite literally -- the very fiber of our existence. The project fosters a long-term partnership among a national group of scientists, humanists, clergy, and artists who bring their best thinking to bear on the immediacy and relevance of recent developments in genetics.”  

More about Liz Lerman and her process, here. Important notes for dancer/choreographer readers of this post here .

The Dance Exchange performance was held atThe performance was held at  the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago which is exhibiting a show called Massive Change. I learned that MCA Chicago is a Green Museum. It seems right at home in Chicago which is clawing its way toward sustainability almost everywhere you look. They even have an environmental code for the City of Chicago, something Cleveland should be working on day and night.  From the Hancock Observatory, green roofs are visible throughout the downtown area (this due to the city’s green roof initiative). Let’s hope that the new CIA and our new MOCA will be LEED certified like the MCA in Chicago and that they will one day be known for their green industrial design grads and for their collaborations with green builders and sustainability innovators here in Northeast Ohio. MCA Chicago could show them how.

And this was all gleaned in two days and one evening! Imagine what my son (who is there for four years of college) will learn!

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Very interesting dance company

Great write up, Susan. I checked out their site and they do seem like a fascinating dance company. Sounds like a good trip to Chicago.

My son is 2nd year at ARTIC, so we should connect our sons... as I was reading your post I was thinking I need to tell my son about it, although it looks like it was a one-time performance.

Disrupt IT

more ferocious beauty

Liz did another interview, this time she talks more about art and science and the intersections between them. This interview took place in Charlotte in late January, 2007. This woman is brilliant and it is her inquisitiveness and perseverance that makes her so.  A MacArthur Fellow (2002), she is truly deserving of the honor. She has never allowed dance or choreography to be an end, but always a beginning, a tool for learning and exploration. I have had the privilege of working with her twice - once when my company commissioned her to make a work about the history of dance in Cleveland and again last fall. Both were amazing experiences!

“We shall not cease from exploration…”    TS Eliot